JCP Swansea Half 2016

swansea 2016 before
Before. Was I the only Half fanatic at Swansea?
Swansea Half Marathon, 26th June 2016. Swansea.
During. “Come on Sponge Bob”

 

I started this review by looking at my notes from last year and noted that I was really impressed with four holes in the bib number to aid pinning to your vest – unfortunately missing this year – but was also impressed with our names printed above the numbers which was great as spectators urged you on.

As can be seen from the “During” photo I wore my quiet, subdued, disappear into the background running vest which stopped everyone shouting “Come on Clive” and had everyone shouting “Keep going Sponge Bob”. Spectators were excellent, by the way, this year – along the whole course again and very vocal.

Tapered well this year and the weather was a lot cooler but still humid under the cloud cover. I made the basic beginner error of starting at the front of my pen, going out to quick, feeling ok so keeping the same pace for ten miles, having heavy and tired legs for the last three point one. A week later the stiffness is just coming out of those tired legs.

One benefit of going out too quick is that I took 12 minutes off last years time (not bad over 13 miles) finishing in 2 hrs 19 min. The downside of the race getting bigger each year is the fact that in spite of going quicker, I dropped from 45th to 55th in the Male Vet 60+ category.

said last year that the goody bag was average but would get better as sponsors came on board and that is exactly what happened. Drinks, banana, energy bars, joint tablets, joint ache cream (used on left knee) and other stuff. Said last year I would do it again and say the same this year. Good and flat with lots of support.

swansea 2016 after
After. Yet another nice quiet tee shirt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Two Half Marathons In Two Days

 

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Windswept hair?

It seemed like a good challenge and a good idea, when I first thought of it six months ago. Inspired by a podcast, MTA, where Angie was running two full marathons over two days and discussing the mental problem of getting up on the second day to “Do it all again.”

 

Because I have made the decision to not run any more full marathons and only do half marathons for the rest of my running life, I figured the challenge of two halves in two days would be physically like running a full marathon but mentally tougher and, of course, everything would depend on recovery between halves, both recovery time and recovery meals and drinks. Add to this a training regime and you have the recipe for an interesting six month experiment. It would also get me into “Half Fanatics”.

 

The first job, of course, was to find two halves in two days, not an easy job in the UK where the vast majority of races fall on a Sunday. When the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships advertised their race in Cardiff, Wales, on a Saturday, it seemed the challenge was on. I scoured the web for a local half on the Sunday (local to cut down the travelling mileage) and picked the Pendine sands races. Pendine is a long beach in West Wales where land speed records have been attempted and was obviously going to be very flat. A bonus for my second day. I knew that one race would be high key and one low key but hadn’t quite realised how difference the gap would be.

 

My grandson ha a sleepover on Friday nights and I look after him all Saturday so double header training has to be on a Sunday morning and then Monday morning before going to work.

Training went well. I took the mileage up to 13.1 plus 10 the next day to get used to the psychology of getting out of bed tired and running. I didn’t go as far as 13.1 plus 13.1 as this would be kept for the special weekend.

Three things happened to change my recovery plans. What started out in my mind as two morning races starting around 9am with 21 hours recovery between, changed somewhat. An e mail from the IAAF announced that the World Half in Cardiff would be an afternoon race starting at 2pm so recovery would be cut down to 16 hours. Then someone asked me when the clocks in the UK went forward an hour for British Summer Time and I looked it up to find it was on my weekend so recovery was down to 15 hours. Luckily an e mail from Pendine announced that because of an exceptionally high tide on the Sunday the race could not start until 11am when there would be some beach to run on, so recovery was back up to 17 hours.

 

I guess the lesson there is that you can plan but things change. It wasn’t announced at the time but was on the day (as an apology) that the World Half had to be in the afternoon because of TV times in the US and Japan.

 

To the races, or should I say plods as both were slow. Cardiff was organised excellently with registration queues at a minimum as the expo and number pick up was over Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning. A very good idea for the 16,000 competitors. I chose Good Friday and enjoyed walking through all the trade stands. I wondered why half the attendees were in tracksuit and trainers. Some sort of uniform? The disappointment for me at the expo was the Adidas official kit stand. I wanted an after race warm hoodie and this seemed to be a good opportunity. Before arriving at the expo I envisaged a black hoodie with small writing on the front saying something about the World half marathon championships. What I found was almost the exact opposite. A hoodie of nondescript colour with a very large red dragon’s head on the front (red dragon, symbol of Wales) looking like a chess piece, with, in very large letters below it, the word “Cardiff”. I searched for a mention of the upcoming race and found it on the back, under the hood! That’s right, if the hood was down the writing was obscured. Come on Adidas, you are a rich company; surely you can afford an outside design company? I eventually came away with a Spongebob Squarepants running vest.

 

I thought the race itself would have no surprises as it was the same course as the Cardiff Half, run a number of times in the past. Those that watched the televised race will know that a world record was possible up to the point where the leaders were a mile or two from the end and the heavens opened and soaked them. This was from Storm Kate. At the time I was less than half way around, about to cross the Cardiff Bay Barrage and hanging on to my peaked cap, protecting me from stinging rain. Managing to dry out a bit by the end a good looking medal was handed out along with a tee shirt replicating the hoodie mentioned above, a few bananas and water.

 

Up the next morning and a one and a half hour short drive down to Pendine. For three day expo read, for this lower key race, pick up your number from the back of a Landrover. There was a bit of confusion over the state of the tide, Storm Kate pushing the waves up the beach and delaying the start for half an hour due to there being no sand to run on! Because of this delay, some transferred from the half to the 10k and some, unfortunately, went home. In the end 23 ran the 10k and 24 ran the half marathon, the winner finishing in 1hr 33mins. Nine also ran an ultra of two laps.

 

Running the first half of the out and back course I found difficult. It was difficult to find my right pace among the 10k runners and difficult also to find hard sand to run on. The guy in front of me had a run, walk, run, system going and, frustratingly, started running just before I caught him up each time.

 

Getting past my run, walk, run, man just before the turn around I started the run back in front of him and as I raised my legs to run, the wind stopped me moving forward and my competitor walked slowly past me. I persisted with attempted running until he was 30m ahead and finally decided on my own run, walk, run, philosophy – it was quicker.

 

Getting back to the start was my hardest run ever and amounted to 15 minute miling – yes 4mph a walking pace gained by run, walk, running. Sand in the face and completely exhausted we then had to do a further challenge, just as we were informed at the briefing “It’s not quite 13.1 at the finish line so run to the rocks and back to the Landrover, three times.”

 

A surprisingly large, colourful medal was presented along with a question as to whether I was in the 60-69 years category. On answering yes, I was handed a “Champion” certificate for first in age group. My first ever race win done from the back of the pack!!

 

I have joked that, taking both races into consideration, this was the weekend where a) I raced Mo Farrah and b) I won.

 

Over Reliance On Gadgets

IMG_1283

These thoughts inspired by reading over an old blog and realising how easy it is to over rely on a gadget!

The old blog was titled “A non-programmed too scared to run week.” To cut a long blog short – I pulled out of a very cold and wet half marathon after about 4 miles because of a hugely increased heart rate that scared me rigid at the time and made me seek medical advice the following day. After a normal ECG and normal bloods my GP advised me to carry on running.

After about a month I was out on a HR zone 2 training run and looked at my heart rate and was shocked that it was showing over 200, shocked mainly because I was running down hill. As I started up the other side of the hill and started puffing, my heart rate dropped to 72 according to my Garmin, something was obviously amiss.

Ignoring my Garmin I trundled on and started thinking about the half that I had dropped out of. A couple of days later I was going to give the Garmin another chance. It would not start and had died. I placed it on charge and went for my run and on return, took the Garmin off charge – it was still dead.

Happy that it was the Garmin at fault and not my heart, happy that it was the Garmin that was dead and not me, it was confined to the back of a drawer.

Did it put me off gadgets? Did it put me off Garmin? No to both. The photo is my 310XT which I love. I think I might think twice about receiving a dodgy message from this monitor though. (note the photo is from the catalogue, I do not run 10 miles in 52 minutes)

One message I did get from my 310XT shook me a bit. I strapped it on for my first run in Cape Verde while on holiday (see below) and, after trying to find satellites for a minute or two a message appeared on the screen “Have you traveled hundreds of miles since your last run?”

I told it yes and all was well with the world.

 

Running on Sal, Cape Verde

Did a “Tripadvisor” review of the hotel where we stayed and the island recently which had a bit on running from the hotel. Thought it might be worth cutting and pasting the ‘running’ section into my WordPress blog and tagging names in case anyone else is looking for advice before leaving on a holiday there.

The hotel was the Riu Garopa but the notes refer just as well to the Riu Funana which is next door (same hotel, complicated, refer to Tripadvisor reviews) on the island of Sal in the Cape Verde Islands just off Senegal, Africa. The cut and paste went thus;-

I am a lark so run in the mornings and usually started about 5 to 5.30 in the dark and watched the sunrise as I ran, the sun coming up at around 6.00 (this is in November). All the local runners are out at this time in the morning, before the heat and before work. Even so, I added one minute to my usual miles per minute pace, at the start of runs as the breeze disguises the humidity levels as you run. It is only when you stop that the sweat drops off you like a waterfall.

Carrying water is a must. (I wrote that as sound advice that I, myself, ignored). To put your position in the world into perspective, travel due east and you would reach Senegal in Africa, travel due west and you would reach Mexico. We always take oral re- hydration with us on holiday in the shape of two tubes of ORS hydration tablets that you dissolve in bottled water – one of these after a run works wonders.

Unless you want to loop around and around the hotel gardens (possible, safe and observed being done while we were there) then you must venture out onto the roads. Please avoid the beaches to the east of the hotel – you do not want to be responsible for disturbing turtle nests! All the pavements outside the hotel area are of cobbles cut from volcanic rock, but not impossible to run on, not a trip factor, more a decent exercise for the ankles (note, us runners emphasise the positives in life and banish the negatives).

Watch out for roads being slippery though as a build up of oil, diesel and tyre rubber will not have been washed away with the rain as there is no rain.

Run number one was going to be to the old port of Santa Maria and back but was curtailed before the end and ended as a three mile jog. The reason? On reaching the town it was obviously kicking out time (dawn) at the Pirate night club and I didn’t fancy running through the drunks. Lone female (or male for that matter) runners note this was a Sunday morning after Saturday night celebrations. This run was out of the hotel, turn right, turn left at the massive palm tree (radio mast in disguise) and keep going until you reach the Pirate Nightclub. Three miles round trip approximately.

After confirming that I had been on the right route for Santa Maria with the Thomson rep, I tried again and it was well worth it. I got one of those early morning runner smug feelings as I stood on the end of the working pier near the Old Harbour, watched the sun come up, watched the colourful boats return with their catch – knowing that I was the only tourist there and everyone else had missed the moment. I then explored the whole town by jogging every street and backstreet and watching the town wake and its citizens walk to work. There was very little sound except for cock crowing. The odd lorry, two cars and a scooter were all I saw as motorised transport.  Every time I took out my map, someone approached to guide me on my way.

Next run was a five and a half mile loop. Out of the hotel and this time turn left towards the town in the distance where all is painted white. Pass one Melia Hotel and when you get to the Melia Dunas your road forces you to turn right. The next roundabout directs you right towards Santa Maria. A long straight road where you have constant vision of the giant radio palm tree mast, this is a dual carriageway but is unlit so try to hit it after dawn.

As you enter the outskirts of Santa Maria, go straight over the roundabout and you will find a petrol station next to the Pirate Nightclub. You will then know where you are from the runs described above. I did, one morning, attempt this loop in reverse but the long straight road between the garage and the Hotel Dunas was too dark and as there is no pavement (you run on the cycle track divided from the road by a white line) I turned around and did intervals between lamposts back to the hotel.

Further runs were a combination of all of the above. After every run, after first discovering a mess on the floor of the hotel room and corridor, I removed running shoes before entering the hotel block. Your shoes will be covered in an odd mixture of sand and tyre rubber!

Thus Spoke Zarathustra through Phedippidations

the spiral of life.
the spiral of life.

My first run out-doors since missing the Cardiff Half. Rhinovirus  it was called, a posh name for coughing, spluttering and having a headache for two weeks also known as the common cold (and manflu). Deciding a few days before the race to DNS I wanted, for some reason, to reinforce my disappointment so went into Cardiff, shopping, straight after the race, to watch everyone walking about in their tech shirts with medals around their necks. Grrrrr.

Getting back into running slowly I did my five ten-minute runs on the treadmill in the gym (with a different leg then arm exercise between each one) but still needed inspiration from somewhere.

Inspiration came in the form of a notification on my iPhone that a podcast I subscribe to had downloaded an episode. Past Runwelshman press items have referred to Phedippidations, and how on 5th July 2015 episode 329 of this podcast had come out but nothing since. I had enjoyed Steve Runner’s podcasts so much I had left his podcast app on my phone “just in case”. I was rewarded with episode 330 on 16th October 2015 and it provided the inspiration I needed to get outside for a run but not in the way you would think.

Episode 330 was very personal and showed Steve as a different person after a bit of a life change. It may have been a farewell podcast, it may be another three month wait, we shall see (your podcast app is still open on my phone Mr. Walker). 330 was mainly about a book Steve had read a number times called “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Friedrich Nietzsche and how it had shaped his life. The show was punctuated with the usual tasteful music and was excellently presented and produced as usual. I am not going to go too heavily into the content of the podcast but would suggest you download this and past episodes.

Talk of Thus Spoke Zarathustra sparked my interest enough for me to download a copy onto my Kindle and to start reading. Among the first pages, in fact in the introduction, was a reference that hit home “Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Henry David Thoreau before him, Nietzsche did his best thinking while walking in the open air, so that place was of the utmost importance to him as a philosopher.” This brought home to me how I was missing my me-time, my running while letting my mind run free, my break from concentration and the reason I have never run with music.

So today it was important to run a slow but hilly 7.35 training run and to contemplate Steve’s podcast, his state of mind and my entry into his suggested book. Love the way this book came to me as Nietzsche himself said “Then the life that is saved in the book is immortal since it survives its author’s death with a strange autonomy: It seeks out readers for itself, ignites new life, delights, terrifies, engenders new works, becomes the soul of plans and actions.”

Another book I have read recently, or half read (more on that later) was called “Runner’s World Running On Air” which was previewed on another podcast I listen to (either Marathon Training Academy or The Conscious Runner Podcast) which interested me so I downloaded it onto my Kindle but only read half, if that. I mention it because part of Steve Runners podcast is recorded while he is running and it stood out to me that he breathes in two strides then out for two strides (again more on that later).

The basis for the book is that your body is at its weakest, while running, when you start to exhale. So, if you breath in for three strides and out for two strides then you will start to exhale on a different foot each time thus balancing your body and avoiding injury. If going faster then you can change this to two in and one out. Guess how many pages of the book it takes to get that message over – not many. Interested to find out what the rest of the book had to offer I was horrified to find I had spent money on a beginners running guide – beginner runners go out too fast, it’s ok to walk when you first start etc. No I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you are a complete beginner somewhere between walking and running.

So on my first run outside I tried out the 3/2 breathing pattern and hated it with a vengeance. It messed with my running, it messed with my breathing, I hated it. The only redeeming feature was that it made me think about my breathing pattern, which is two in and two out (see above) and, at the crest of a hill I could slow down my panting and heart rate by employing a 3/2 rate.

What about this for a thought to mull over. Next Easter on March 26th is the World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff. It is on the Saturday and I am already entered. On the following day Easter Sunday is the Pendine Sands Half Marathon (and ultra run but forget that) held on the beach where Donald Campbell used to race Bluebird on land speed record attempts. What about running Cardiff, jumping in the car, bed and breakfast somewhere down west and then running the Pendine Half as a back to back over two days.

Not only would this be a challenge to work towards but it might even get me into The Half Fanatics running club. What is going through my mind at the moment, and would have to be run out of my mind, is a note from Angie on the MTA podcast that running back to back marathons is mentally harder than a fifty miler (so assume back to back halves harder than running a marathon) because, she said, in a fifty miler you are running with a goal of finishing the run, with back to back marathons you are running with a goal of finishing the first marathon knowing you have to get up and do it all again tomorrow.

I wonder.

JCP Swansea Half Marathon race report

IMG_0447On Sunday 14th June 2015 the second only JCP Swansea (Abertawe) half marathon ‘SwanseaHalf was run by 5000 eager runners. Apparently the inaugural race attracted 3000 runners and the expectancy is for a growth up to around 10,000 in 2016.

I have absolutely no idea how the organisers started looking at starting this race but have imagined the following and I am pretty sure that I am not far off the mark;-

I envisage a group of runners probably sat in a pub somewhere in Swansea, discussing whether or not they could start a Swansea Half. Someone suggests that to attract the usual runners from South wales, The West Country and beyond, it would be a good idea to have the half in the summer as all other halves are in the Spring or Autumn (Fall).

Then they delve into the minor details of what they would improve over other halves, given the chance. Someone says “Whenever I pin my number (bib) onto my vest I worry about the pin going through that very hard paper that the number is printed on and then the pin going through my finger. Why don’t we get the numbers printed with holes in each corner.”

“Good idea” says someone else, “And while we’re at it, I hate tying my chip into my shoelaces, why don’t we attach the chip to the back of the number?”

“Great” says person number three “I have a running vest with my name on it and love it when people call out my name. The vest is a bit old though, why don’t we get the numbers printed with the person’s name at the top?”

And there you pretty much have it. An out and back course, very very flat along Swansea bay, loads of spectators lining the route, on pavements and in bars and cafes.

A good medal in two colours, an indifferent goody bag that will improve as sponsors clamor to get involved and a hot (don’t forget your sun screen) day enjoyed by all.

Registration is now open for 2016 and I for one will be there.

The Weather – Bad Luck / Good Luck

Chickened out of my weekend run on waking at 4.00 a.m. and looking out at the ice rink which was the road that I live in. It didn’t take much persuasion or effort to climb slowly back into bed. Then I started reading posts of those I follow on WordPress and it seems like everyone in the Eastern USA is running through deep snow and slush – made me feel guilty.

Monday morning and the weather forecast has said that the bad weather is mostly over for us and we could expect showers only, today. On waking, pre-dawn, I could see that car windscreens were white from hail stones, but if that was a shower and was over then it was OK for me to run – logic.

My usual 7.35 circular route involves road running and today is the first Monday back after the school’s half term holiday week so the roads needed to be avoided. I decided on an out-and-back course along my local cycle track and back and wondered why I didn’t do more out-and-back runs. Then I found out. The “out” bit of the run was into the type of head wind that makes you wonder why you are not making progress, even though your legs are moving – and then the inevitable – getting to the turn around point, turning around and being puzzled that the wind has mysteriously stopped completely.

Returning home I was grumbling at my “weather bad luck”, reached the house, stripped off wet tee shirt and made coffee and looked out the window to witness, hail then sleet, then snow – my “weather good luck”. Be aware though that when I say snow – imagine the US East Coast snow drifting across the Atlantic, weakening after every mile and then snowing on Wales such that you can still see the road surface through the light sprinkling. The hills around my valley look neat with their white coats though.